Kiwi firm makes app for Will Smith blockbuster

By Ben Chapman-Smith

A New Zealand firm operating out of the UK has taken the lead role in developing the official app for new sci-fi thriller After Earth, starring father and son duo Will and Jaden Smith.

BeyondTheStory - which started in Wellington in 2005 before relocating to London four years later- has created After Earth: Kitai's Journal for Sony Pictures Entertainment/Overbrook Entertainment.

The iPad app goes live today ahead the film's much-hyped release in the US on May 31.

Set 1,000 years into the future, After Earth features a teenage Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) battling to save himself and his father (Will Smith) after their spacecraft crash lands on a much different planet Earth.

He records his mission in Kitai's Journal, which BeyondTheStory have turned into an app featuring 13 journal chapters, film imagery and audio, background insights and interactive spacecraft and creatures.

Jen Porter, founder and chief executive of BeyondTheStory, said the company was Kiwi-led and Kiwi-run, despite being based in Mayfair, London.

"We're still a New Zealand company and extremely proud of it. We're up here trying to make our company a success.

"The former office had a wonderful view of Wellington harbour; the latter has no view but is opposite the birthplace of Queen Elizabeth II."

BeyondTheStory partners with publishing houses, film companies and authors to transform their books into multi-media apps, allowing them to include images, audio, behind-the-scenes video, 3D content, and real-time updates.

"With a finger touch or sweep on the iPad, readers can immerse themselves in the storyline, imagery and background in as much detail as they like," Porter said.

The business was originally called Trade Mobile, based in Willis Street, Wellington, creating a platform for music apps.

"We abandoned that notion totally mid 2009 and started again in the UK to build the business we now have," Porter said.

"We knew if we wanted to scale the business and grow it we had to look at migrating."

Porter said the original team of three which moved to London had grown to 16, five of whom were Kiwis. New Zealanders tended to stand out in the UK for their creativity, can-do attitude and strong work ethic, she said.

The company's previous work includes an app of Anne Frank's Diary and another based on historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey's book Crown and Country, bringing to life 2000 years of Britain's Kings and Queens.

Speaking from London last night, Porter said there was a buzz in the office ahead of Will and Jaden Smith's arrival in London on Thursday (UK time) to promote the book and app.

"The days have been quite long. What a difference from where we started!"

The After Earth app is for iPad 2 or above and is available at Apple's App store for $4.99 (NZ). A video of the app can be viewed here.

Porter next the step for the company was to license its platform and then look at moving into the US.

BeyondTheStory was currently in discussions with two major US internet companies but Porter said it was still too early to be thinking about selling the business.

"We're not ready yet - it's too early. I want to be a year down the track and have this licensing agreement out there.

"The whole purpose of what we're doing is not just to be an app company. Really, we want a licensing model that other film companies and publishers can use. That would be our great exit strategy."

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